Branch: Hockey is giving us its best, don’t miss it

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Blake Branch
Blake Branch

I make no attempt to hide the fact I’m a football junky.

Everything about the game triggers something inside of me that no other sport can, whether it be the brutal collisions, the intracate X’s and O’s of playcalling or a fourth and inches where you find out who wants it more.

With the lack of football activity, outside of what has been a wild NFL offseason, I’ve been searching for something to fill the void left by football.

Mission accomplished.

The National Hockey League probably doesn’t have much of a following here in Louisiana, due to the fact that not much is played on the bayou, but it’s time for more southerners to take notice.

Hockey is a game requiring superior skill, strength, speed and hand/eye coordination.

The NHL playoffs began five weeks ago, and ever since I’ve been drawn to the television like a mosquito to a bug-zapper.

Sure, I’m a little fuzzy on all the rules and some finer points of the game, but I know I like bone-jarring hits and slapshots finding the back of the net at over 100 miler per hour.

I was a hockey skeptic for several years, failing to really give the game a chance.

I’m usually glued to the NBA playoffs this time of year, but with the barrage of injuries to star players and overall lack of competition in this year’s edition, the NHL has filled in nicely with action packed overtime games gallore.

To catch you up with where things stand, the Anaheim Ducks lead the Chicago Blackhawks in their best of seven Western Conference Finals series, 3-2, while the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers are heading for a crucial game seven in New York with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.

Both series have been highly competitive, with four of the combined 10 games in the two series going to overtime, where instead of
playing out the time no matter what, the game ends as soon as someone scores, sudden death as it’s called.
The team I was originally rooting for, the Pittsburgh Penguins (that’s right, the Penguins) was eliminated in the first round.
At this stage of the game, I’m a bandwagon Ducks fan for three reasons.

1) The Ducks play outstanding defense and hit harder and more often than any team left in the playoffs. They send their opponents crashing into the boards at an astonishing rate.

2) They are taking on the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has won multiple Stanley Cup titles in recent years (2010, 2013) and I always root for the underdog. Who doesn’t right?

3) They are the Ducks, which makes me think of the movie “The Mighty Ducks” and every 90’s kid roots for the Mighty Ducks.

Without a doubt, I owe hockey one for stepping in for the lack of football and the mediocrity of the NBA playoffs, so what better way than to try and pass on a few more viewers as the sport approaches its biggest stage, the Stanley Cup Finals.

I think you’ll find the objectivity refreshing, as most games are more fun to watch when the outcome doesn’t make you want to hurl a chair through a window (LSU football, I’m looking at you).

So if you’re like me and need a sports fix for the next couple weeks, it’s not too late to tune in.

Blake Branch is the Sports Editor of the Minden Press-Herald.

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